Teens Underwater – Stephan Crown-Weber
August 25, 2023
They were teens underwater, trained by an older cousin of the short one. The lagoon was blue above and behind them. Caves lay in front of them and the deep was black if not for the yellow-white beams of their lamps.
They were teens who had not quite come to a collective understanding before that time underwater that they were not expected to know about cave diving, let alone the Blue Grotto where someone once claimed there were parties and more.
They were teens doing tricks underwater, flips. Hands gesturing as if grasping unseen candy. Schools of fish paid them no mind and maybe had no mind except the collective flitting.
They were aware, each and together, that no one was supposed to understand how crazy it was that they were teens underwater thinking about being teens underwater thinking about being teens underwater thinking about being teens underwater without a guide this time.
They were carrying on like shorebirds and dancing in the grotto, talking about how they had all wanted to say stuff like Roger that. Over. Do you copy? They were teens who were not underwater but only in a place accessible by water and there would be photos of them. They were laughing at themselves. They weren’t smoking. Each drank just a little, just enough to say they had but also say it had been only for the slightest buzz and they promised to wait until the vibe subsided. They each scratched their name on a concrete slab that preservationists had put there to stop people from adding graffiti to the rocks themselves. Among other remnants of their time there, it was also noted in the visitors’ log that four sexy people had been there XOXOX. Everyone would say something about how they had been teens underwater and what could you expect so they made a special effort to survive the night.
They would all be teens writing college essays about being teens underwater. The process of being trained by one of their older cousins. In their version of events, nothing had been illicit about it. The fact one had almost wanted to write about his grandmother instead but felt limited by the horizon of a grandmother who had never properly been underwater and even less a teen underwater. The importance of trying new things and learning and testing limits. The awareness that God had once been a whale and would become one in the future like a thunderhead above undersea teens who recognized the true seeds of the next world but the one suspected anyway that the epiphany was hamhandedly received and unevenly distributed.
They were undergrads in college talking about how they had been teens underwater. One said he would never do it again: never, never. Another said she was instead thinking about Christmas presents she had to buy do but now she wasn’t and this gave dungeon energy. A third allowed that he would do it after taking a class on it. Never again as a teen underwater who barely knew about the scuba gear, though they may all have sensed they had been launched into a position of prominence in others’ minds by the fact they had been teens underwater.
For certain reasons that stood out to some and were dimly ignored by others, the march of time would land them at a party far from shore and no one seemed to get (or was willing to indulge them in) how epic it had been when they were “young adults” underwater. Some people are just jealous. And then they moved around the party and didn’t act as though it had ever been a big deal.
For the one the memory shone brighter than ever. Not just the blue…but the saline spray and mouthwash infinite beyond white sand, the turtles evading them, the fire coral they were not to touch. They were teens emerging from underwater and crowded in by mangroves they feared would engulf the whole coastline until hurricanes turned it to matchsticks again.
For another for a while they had never been underwater because he never thought about it. More like there was nothing to deny…a hazy spot in that summer of teens under the influence.
It was the one who would place them all in the scene and claim that they were supposed to know that there were more important things than ever having been teens underwater but it was not, they thought, going to be true just yet—and so he contacted all of them. They were out of school. They would have lived to no end with the speed of the sea behind like the moon shifting the tide in every brain. One would call it a day that would live in infamy and another replied that all was absolved as things are when dunked underwater. No one replied to that. They did not get back together. Ever.
Some of them lived in cities and would go visit other cities. Some sought out neighborhoods with axe throwing ranges and had ways that were deferred in all speech. They perambulated. This was called a time to bring up being teens underwater that either everyone or no one was moved by. It was the sort of thing that people like them had once done, would do yet; they could have children who received proper training and would one day be led to believe there was the slightest element of risk in being teens underwater. The idea of having kids, though: who could deal with the thought of them drunk underwater?
One sometimes thought about how they had converged on that moment as teens underwater and dispersed. Boys who went too fast and boys gone too soon. She would be at pools and see her children not just as children but teens underwater, and beyond a certain point the absolution of time seemed to submerge each ill feeling in an image that said and did nothing and returned her kids to her. She was not on the coast: they may have gone skiing once a year or so. An avalanche could have engulfed her. But the fires of the desert and the hurricanes rising out of the tropics could never reach this far. And even then the trick that no conspiracy offered a ready-made solution to was to make it possible for her children to fall into a place where they knew nothing and would begin to swim far from land: but then it may well have been some truth whispered in a dream that she had been tricked into being a teen underwater for at least one night. And how does that trick happen again? The moms were on deck chairs waiting to empathize. She also went into her job, a middle executive position, and was keenly aware of the level of discomfort she had been through once upon a time. She had not studied abroad in a war zone or grown up in a tough neighborhood or ever gotten in a hair-pulling fight but there was a poise that came with the knowledge of how she had grown and was set to self-actualize further and she had the distinct sense that others did not know everything about her but guessed from her confidence and willingness to take on unfamiliar challenges that she had once been something along the lines of a teen underwater.
One did not despise, did not want to despise the thought of having been one of them—or rather having done what they had done as teens. He went to seminary, vanished into a monastery and yet encountered mirrors every day. The details became more vague for the others after a point and then all that was known was outside the worldly order of throngs and wires, and he became an anchorite after a promotion. Submerged in forest, it at first seemed like the pure thought of being a teen underwater or even a soul in the black of the space of ignorance between the truth of the light before and after without the entanglement of worldly life. Having been a teen underwater was the childish thing put away, as was speaking about it. He was, after a point, so purely dwelling in the thought of the dove, father, and light that certain concepts vanished from his repertoire and he would see the open glade, deer grazing, ticks repulsed by chemical sprays, and feel it so immediately, it would seem, by the grace of God, there was no need for any comparison, the Word and the parts to be spoken in the hands of those in Heaven watching over him. And if he thought anything else about teens and being underwater he felt just fine, as if it was spat out and dripped away immediately.
Two of them in the same city now would decide they “knew nothing about“ what people said about them and laughed. And those who had heard through some chain beyond their reach had the sense not to tell the pair’s respective families. And thought there would be little left to forget, though they got together again and again and recreated the atmosphere down there on the far side of the water. They were more than a little taken with what a privilege it was to have this time and they both had the stamina to hang out so why not? They joked about how they had something going that went beyond sea level. They worked out together sometimes and each paid close attention to what foods and beers the other bought at the grocery. They may or may not have learned from one another as they developed their investment portfolios too. They were never at any point polite to one another and this level of respect had taken years to develop. And then: did he have to be a smart aleck? So much of what they wanted to do together at their parties was “natural.” Why not accept he was a smart ass, not unlike a certain teen underwater? Why are you so resistant to change? Why are you so codependent? Flashes of eyes. A gradual decline in interactions? And they stopped speaking in person and maybe in some active way in their mind: there were so many other professionals. And talked at length at gatherings once a year or so and still slapped one another on the back and head and so on since they were buddies, after all.
And many unenumerated things happened: not everything came close to fitting into the matrix of the so-called aftermath of them having been teens underwater. Though, you know, part of the issue was that not everyone is prepared to talk about or be talked to about this sort of underwater thing for reasons that they all considered themselves too polite to discuss; though these reasons differed (with some overlap).
In any case, others thought they were not teens anymore and it became easier than ever not to think in any sincere way about what it must have been for them ever to have, though pictures surfaced online, facial recognition algorithms determined that a group of four had been in a cave together once in wetsuits—and those of the four who still spoke somehow independently of each other agreed on the reality that they had almost died that night and the two who were sort of friends with one another still brought up the idea that they had in fact been stopped by the police or coast guard (their memories were hazy) and given such a severe warning that they did not dare such a thing again and in their words had been “scared straight.” After a time they invented a part where they were low on oxygen: the girl had had to be resuscitated (though “she would probably deny this—wherever she is”). They had entered a weird stage of grief in front of the authorities where they cried that it wasn’t their fault. She had known the risks. She had had the same amount to drink and was 60% of the weight of the biggest one. When teens do something like that the amount of brainpower is one divided by how many are present.
The algorithm determined that they had all been eighteen years old and maybe had had a little to drink. And “said” nothing more. They were not underwater. So many in a wide range of countries and regions had been teens and underwater at a certain point in history that the story lost all meaning for them. And for the four, it did end to the extent no one they knew was aware they had been teens undersea after their second oblivion. And here it ends for some and continues for others in the great tale of history and of course there are still so many teens and so many ways to be underwater.